Vintage boats. Azure water. Glistening bodies. Scrunchy sand. Panoramic views. The Amalfi Coast is clearly more than a jumble of picturesque houses. But what most people don’t realise is that it also plays host to an ancient dialect (some would argue language) called Neapolitan.
But wait: isn’t the Amalfi coast in Italy? Don’t Italians speak… Italian? Yes and no. You see Italy, as a unified state, is a relatively new invention, with even The Italy Magazine admitting it was, “Against all geopolitical odds (that), the Italian Republic was born in 1871 after several nation states unified to form what we now call Italy.”
“European Statesmen Count Metternich once called Italy nothing more than a geographic expression.”
As a result, there are various regional dialects humming along beneath the surface, Neapolitan being one of them. This means that on the Amalfi Coast, as in the rest of the Napoli region, you will find people who prefer to speak Neapolitan, the old language of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies.
And while the vast majority also speak Italian, knowing a few well placed phrases in Neapolitan is even more impressive. And when it comes to differentiating yourself from the 25 million tourists who pass through each year, you’re going to need something special to catch the eye of the Napolitano bella/bello of your dreams.
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While Neapolitan is notoriously difficult to learn (expats have likened it to a secret society), the seaside vibes of the Amalfi Coast mean the locals might give you more time of day with it than you would get in urban centres like Naples. And remember: your Naepolitan phrases don’t need to lead to a multi-faceted discussion of geopolitics—they are ice-breakers (or party tricks) designed to elicit a smile, a conversation (in Italian or English) and/or an approvingly raised eyebrow.
“Skip the phrasebook bullsh*t about asking for directions to your hotel; if you’ve just got 20 minutes to study before your flight lands, you should learn to be funny and agreeable,” (Tipsy Pilgrim).
Even better: “Neapolitan is a joyously piquant language full of irony and comedy,” (The Italy Magazine), as well as (allegedly) the linguistic inheritor of ancient Greek comedies, which only adds to its romantic appeal. If your interest is piqued: here are some of our favourite lines, along with when to use them.
When Your Crush Comes Back From The Bar
Che si dic?
Literal translation: “What do you say?”
Actual translation: “What’s new?”
When You Realise You Said The Wrong Thing
Sto pazziann’. *hand gestures*
Literal translation: I’m joking (no ‘actual translation’ needed for this one).
When Your Date Has A Playful Dig At You
Ta gia fa a cape con cipolle!
Literal translation: “I am going to fry your head with onions!”
Actual translation: “Watch it!” Best said playfully…
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When You Think You’ve Just Said Something Clever
E verò o nò?
Literal translation: “Is it true or no?”
Actual translation: “Am I right or am I right?”
When They Ask For Another Chance After Standing You Up
Buono buono, la terza volta buono si fesso!
Literal translation: “Good once, twice, the third time good you are an idiot!”
Actual translation: “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice (or in this case, three times) shame on me.”
When They’ve Been Staring At You All Night (& You’re Into It)
Literal translation: “Hey baby/Oh darling.”
Actual translation: “Hey babe.”
When They Assume You’re Going Home With Them
‘O vin’ è vin’ quann’ sta ind’a’ vott’.
Literal translation: “Wine is wine when it’s in the bottle.”
Actual translation: “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”
When They Arrive Half An Hour Late For A Date
Ma cche staje faccen’? O ppane?
Literal translation: “What are you doing? Making bread?”
Actual translation: “What’s taking you so long?”
When You Feel Philosophical (& Want To Throw Out A Random Proverb)
Chi chiagne fotte a chi ride…
Literal translation: “He who cries f*cks over he who laughs.”
Actual translation: Crybabies are vindictive bastards…
When They Ask Why You Don’t Have Any Friends
L’amico è comme’ ‘o ‘mbrello: quannno chiove nun o truove maje.
Literal translation: “The friend is like an umbrella, he is never at hand when it rains.”
Actual translation: “A friend is so necessary, as difficult to find, in fact, like the rain cover when there is a storm.”